Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Court of Appeals extends stay of PolyMet permits

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 10/23/19

REGIONAL— A court-ordered stay on two key permits for PolyMet Mining’s proposed NorthMet copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes, will continue, at least until sometime in early 2020. Chief Judge …

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Court of Appeals extends stay of PolyMet permits

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REGIONAL— A court-ordered stay on two key permits for PolyMet Mining’s proposed NorthMet copper-nickel mine near Hoyt Lakes, will continue, at least until sometime in early 2020. Chief Judge Edward J. Cleary issued that order on Oct. 24, which means that two DNR-issued permits, including PolyMet’s dam safety permit and permit to mine, will remain suspended until the court rules on ongoing litigation over those permits. That decision is expected sometime in late January.

A coalition of environmental groups and the Fond du Lac Band challenged the DNR’s decision to issue those permits along with its decision not to conduct a contested case hearing that would have allowed mine opponents to challenge some of the conclusions the DNR reached regarding the permits.

“Based on the record and the arguments of the parties, we conclude that is appropriate to continue the stay through this court’s disposition of the appeals,” wrote Judge Cleary in his order.

Lawyers for the environmental groups, the Fond du Lac Band, the DNR, and PolyMet offered oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals, which included Cleary, on Oct. 23. The court had issued a stay back in September pending the Oct. 23 hearing. In a nine-page order issued on Sept. 18, Cleary had written: “The DNR shall be prepared to advise the court on the status of post-permit developments, including its evaluation of the Brumadinho dam failure and its consideration of whether Glencore will be added as a co-permittee.”

The continuation of the stay suggests that the judges may have been less than satisfied with the DNR’s answers on those questions.

The Court of Appeals, back in August, had also placed a stay on PolyMet’s water discharge permit over allegations that officials with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency pressured top administrators in the Region 5 office of the Environmental Protection Agency to withhold written comments raising concerns about the permit’s compliance with the Clean Water Act. Litigation over those allegations and the discharge permit is continuing.

The Timberjay will have more on this story as it develops.

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